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The DEIB Inflection Point: Insights into Executive Turnovers and Business Imperatives

In 2023, the journey of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) highlighted both significant progress and ongoing challenges. The global market for DEI, which was estimated at $7.5 billion in 2020, is projected to more than double to $15.4 billion by 2026, reflecting increased attention and investment in these initiatives​​. Notably, the Global Parity Alliance's DEI Lighthouse Program has identified successful DEI initiatives, pinpointing five success factors for impactful DEI efforts: a nuanced understanding of root causes, a meaningful definition of success, accountable business leaders, context-specific solutions, and rigorous tracking and course correction​​.


Promising case studies from companies like Walmart, Schneider Electric, Shiseido, Tata Steel, and Randstad highlight the tangible benefits of DEIB initiatives. These include increased social mobility for employees, improved pay equity, accelerated gender parity in leadership, improved intersectional gender diversity, and economic empowerment for at-risk women​​.


However, the path forward is not without its setbacks. The recent resignations of executive diversity leaders at companies like Nike, Warner Bros, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Netflix, and Disney point to a worrying trend. Research suggests a high turnover of chief diversity officers (CDOs), with 60% leaving their jobs between 2018-2021 and a decrease in their average tenure​​. Factors contributing to this include a lack of acceptance of DEI roles by other C-suite executives, a 4.5% decrease in hiring for these positions in 2022, and the vulnerability of CDOs to layoffs, experiencing 40% higher turnover than their HR counterparts.

The resignations of executives such as Latondra Newton from Disney, Karen Horne from Warner Bros, Vernā Myers from Netflix, and Jeanell English from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, alongside the recent resignation of Harvard University President Dr. Claudine Gay, highlight these challenges that often point to wider systemic issues. The departure of these leaders raises serious questions about the commitment to DEIB initiatives within organizations. Many DEI heads report struggling to gain board-level acceptance and feeling a lack of ownership for the outcomes they are responsible for. This is coupled with a pressure for quick change, which clashes with the reality that cultural change takes time​. Coupled with accounts of covert and overt acts of racism by colleagues, donors, and the general public, the job of developing a new culture of equity and inclusion can often take its toll without genuine buy-in and support.


For business leaders, it's essential in 2024 to recognize that DEIB is not only a moral imperative but also crucial for business success. A lack of commitment to these initiatives can have a negative impact on the bottom line. Leaders should focus on integrating the identified success factors, ensuring DEIB efforts are deeply rooted not only in the mission and vision but also in the company's operations, and providing DEIB leaders with the necessary resources and authority needed to have a lasting impact. This approach can lead to a more inclusive and ultimately more successful business environment.

Free Resources:

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1. "2023 DEI initiatives report: Inside the lighthouses" - McKinsey

2. "Diversity Wins" report (2020) - McKinsey & Company

3. "Global Human Capital Trends" report (2020) - Deloitte

4. "The ‘Great DEI Resignation’ – why are so many diversity heads calling it quits?" - TLNT

5. "U.S. Institutional Investor Study" (2020) - Edelman

6. "2020 Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace" survey - Deloitte

7. "Diverse Intelligence Series" - Nielsen

8. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) study

9. Center for Talent Innovation report

10. Edelman study

11. U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report (2019)

12. Weber Shandwick survey

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